We won’t know for a while the direct impact that Google’s stunning, multi-billion dollar acquisition of Nest will have, but one thing is for sure: it’s given the IoT an unprecedented level of recognition, and my bet is that history will judge that as a critical step in the IoT’s commercialization. After all, Nest only has two products, and their price premium compared to competing thermostats and smoke detectors meant they were definitely niche players. Now, the “Google Effect” will mean that they’ll get a disproportionate amount of media attention, just as the driverless car has.
That’s no small thing, especially for the IoT in general, which got more attention in 2013, but, IMHO, still remains unheard of among the general public. I suspect that the phrase “Internet of Things” got more exposure last week because of the Nest deal than it ever had in the past.
Of course, there are some big imponderables in the deal. Google’s past in consumer acquisitions (i.e., Motorola) isn’t exactly stunningly successful, and it’s hard to tell now how much they’ll want to grow the Nest line, or whether they’ll decide to make radical cuts in the devices’ prices to gain market share. I do suspect that one part of Nest’s strategy, adoption of the Apple closed-standards approach, will go bye-bye: not only is it incompatible with the whole Android philosophy, but it also makes no sense from an IoT standpoint, since the only way the IoT will ever succeed will be by standardizing on a small number of open systems (I’m a FIERCE Mac zealot, but still think that history will judge their devotion to a closed system to be a quirk: I always look to nature for inspiration, and nature doesn’t do things that way!).
The other big question about the deal is whether there will be a Chinese wall between data from Nest devices and Google’s omniverous data maw. Nest CEO Tony Fadell says that the data will remain with Nest, but that seems highly-unlikely over time. We shall see…
At any rate, it seems to me that this is, on whole, a critical watershed in the IoT’s commercialization, and we’re likely to see new interest among the general business community and the public as a result!